Many charities and granting organizations and agencies are moving away from paper grant applications and have or are going fully online with electronic submissions of applications. These include the Montana Arts Council (and state agencies) and private foundations that operate in Montana.
The federal government has only accepted fully electronic applications for several years now through grants.gov.
The granters aren’t trying to make life difficult for you; they are trying to be efficient with their time and resources. One major advantage for granters to go online is the ability to better walk applicants through the application process and provide instant help while preventing incomplete applications.
Another advantage to online processes are that they give the granter all application materials in electronic formats, which are easier for staff and committees to store, distribute and review than thousands of pages of paper.
The first priority when applying for any kind of funding is to be organized, and with online applications processes, it’s even more important. That means going to the online application, printing out the questions or downloading the forms and instructions. Then compile your answers and gather all needed information before starting on the actual application.
Some organizations will require using a web browser for the application process: for Windows, you should do fine with Internet Explorer (IE), as most online systems are optimized for that browser. On a Mac, you might want to download Firefox and use it instead of Apple’s Safari, as Firefox handles “IE’-friendly pages better.
Some organizations will require downloading of documents, filling them in and then uploading them in the correct format. Some applications will be in Acrobat pdf format, which can be filled out and saved with the free Acrobat Reader. Some will be in a Microsoft format, which means you need that program or need to find it at a public-use computer, such as in a library. Be sure you’re uploading the file correctly.
For some applications you may also need to upload or email images, so be sure they are correct in terms of display size, pixel depth and file format. If you don’t know what to do, find someone who does; images that don’t “work” for the review committee will sink your application.
For some federal applications at grants.go. such as for National Endowment for the Arts grant. you may need your own PC or Mac as you might need to install the PureEdge reader; it will only run on certain versions of Windows and Mac OS X.
Plan ahead and check grants.gov for requirements. And remember to register at grants.gov two to three weeks ahead of time, as advised, and finish and submit your federal application ahead of the deadline.
And remember the need for a broadband internet connection; if you’re on dial-up and need to email or upload large images or files, take your files on a flash drive to a friend’s PC or to the public library.